When you think about university, it’s most likely that assignments, exams and a long-awaited graduation spring to mind. But how much thought do you give to networking?
Building a network is one of the most important actions you can take while studying and it’s all about meeting the right people who can support your career goals. These connections can help you find internship opportunities, a suitable mentor or even a graduate job.
Standing out from your peers at postgraduate level can be more challenging, so networking is a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd.
Below are some ideas for kick-starting your professional development during your postgraduate studies.
Make the most of your career service
Universities offer a vast range of services to help you launch your career, many of which you can access remotely. Sign up for one-to-one guidance with a careers adviser, ask about regular virtual drop-in sessions and see if you can get another opinion on your CV.
Most universities support their alumni, but to make the most of your career service, use it while you’re studying too. Remember, career services have strong relationships with employers, so you could gain insight into what skills they’re looking for, and tailor your job or internship application to suit.
A postgrad student who has been networking for a few years and is well connected will appeal to prospective employers.
Engage with your lecturers
Make the most of your university lecturers. They have useful connections from colleagues in the field to former students, which makes them a valuable resource during your time at university.
A good lecturer will happily give you support if you ask for it. Take the time to arrange a virtual meeting during their office hours and ask them to help connect you with people working in your area of study.
At postgraduate level, networking is a great way to grasp the dynamics in your area of study and the skills that are valued most.
Sign up to a professional networking platform
The most popular networking platform is LinkedIn. You can use LinkedIn to browse for employment opportunities, connect with other professionals, and keep up to date with topics that people in your field are speaking about.
Also, take the time to start brushing up on your other social media platforms. In this day and age, we have less privacy, so be sure that anything you post online, through Instagram, Facebook or any other platform, wouldn’t put off a potential employer.
Connect with recent postgrads
They’ve been in your shoes, and fairly recently, so can give you an insight into navigating life after university. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the shift to homeworking, being able to speak to someone that has experienced these changes at the start of their career will be even more beneficial.
Recent postgrads might even have connections with recruiters or be able to give you some interview tips based on their current experiences.
Do a few internships
An internship gets your foot in the door and demonstrates your inclination to succeed, as you apply theoretical skills gained during higher education in a real-life scenario.
Even if you don’t get a job offer, or decide the company isn’t right for you, it’s a great way of expanding your network.
Take your internship seriously, try to gain feedback and remember to ask for a reference.
At the end of your internship, say thank you and if you enjoyed it, express interest in a full-time job once you’ve finished university. Even if there isn’t an opening now, there could be one by the time you graduate.
Attend career fairs
At postgraduate level, you’re on the cusp of entering the workplace. Attending some career fairs is a no-brainer because it will give you a sense of current job opportunities and what companies are hiring.
Some graduate career fairs are open to everyone, while others are tailored towards postgraduate students specifically.
The good news is career fairs are still taking place virtually at many top universities. It’s worth signing up to receive updates where possible to avoid missing out.
Keep in touch with your peers
Finally, think about how to stay in touch with your classmates after you graduate. This might be the easiest network to build, but it could prove to be one of the most valuable in the long run.
For example, setting up a group chat is an easy way to stay connected, share contacts and celebrate each other’s career successes. As your careers unfold you may even find your paths cross again and there could be opportunities to refer one another or to work together.
In the meantime, remember that small gestures can go a long way. Sharing a link to an insightful webinar or recommending a service that you’ve found useful shows your peers that you’re thinking about them, and that you’re an important person to stay connected with.
Why not try to arrange a reunion every six to 12 months? One of the best parts of university is the friends and connections that you make, and these people could turn out to become trusted allies as your careers progress.